The SmarK Rant for WWE Live in Saskatoon – 10.02.22
By Scott Keith on 3rd October 2022
The SmarK Rant for WWE Live in Saskatoon – 10.02.22
So after being originally scheduled for January of this year and delayed due to whatever wacky reason they eventually settled on (Potential winter storms I think it was? Something with Covid?) we finally got a return to Saskatoon for WWE, the first time since February 2019, before the pandemic.
Ticket sales on Ticketmaster were looking sluggish leading up to the show, but by the time we got to our seats, the lower bowl was full and so were most of the floor seats. I’d guess about 3500 people in attendance, which is a normal number, especially since they announced a grand total of zero matches leading up to this one and didn’t even say who was going to be on the show. All we knew was that it was a Smackdown-branded show of some kind, but hey, tickets were cheap, even for where I was sitting (8 rows from the bottom with a good line of sight).
As always, I really like the setup of these, with the fake LED board that’s created with projectors on a white screen, but it still makes it seem fairly important and not, you know, a nothing Sunday afternoon house show in Saskatchewan.
Merch selection was…sparce. My child went with the Drew shirt because she thought it looked cool, and I was torn between a Bloodline shirt and a retro Cena videogame shirt paying tribute to the NES Wrestlemania game, but I went with acknowledging the Tribal Chief. Other than that, they didn’t really have much jumping out at me unless you wanted to drop $475 on a custom Bret Hart WWF title reproduction (Because WHAT IF the classic winged eagle had a pink and black themed strap, you might ask?) or $30 on a Razor Ramon Funko Pop. Truly the best way to pay tribute to a fallen legend.
Regardless, the crowd was VERY loud and obviously starved for wrestling, which made for a fun atmosphere all night, even if the matches weren’t all packed with star power. Another thing I appreciated was them showing the “Top 10 moments from Smackdown” video from YouTube on the big screens before the show, which is basically how I consume the weekly TV shows anyway, and also catches up casual fans on who the characters are pretty well.
Match 1: Shinsuke Nakamura v. Angel Garza
Angel and the other guy in the Lotharios (Humberto I think?) got a big “first guys on the first house show in three years” pop, but then quickly set us straight by informing us what a dump our city was and how everyone in the building was much uglier than they were. Nakamura is so obviously just collecting a payday at this point in his career, but he seemed to be having fun while the Lotharios did their wacky double-teams behind the ref’s back and unsuccessfully tried to switch off a few times. I mean, the first giveaway was that Angel has the tearaway pants, so once he took them off it was pretty much impossible to pretend they were the same person. It all leads back to my oft-proven lesson about heeling, in that you should never point to your own head to indicate intelligence because it will always backfire on you. And this was no exception, as Angel got a few near-falls but Nakamura made the comeback and surprisingly won with the spinkick deal and not the Kinshasa, in about 5:00. A fine opener for what it was. *1/2
Match 2: Natalya v. B-Fab of Hit Row
Yeah so this wasn’t exactly the deepest talent roster I’ve ever seen for a house show. B-Fab is more like B-not very good. Nattie was of course crazy over and did her usual stuff, while Fab did chinlocks and didn’t really do much to keep up. At one point she had Nattie in the corner was putting the boots to her, which she did by doing this weird deal where she kicked her leg way back in the air but then slowed down to actually deliver the boot, which looked so ridiculous that even my 12 year old daughter was giving her shit over it. I guess this was a babyface match, though, because no one really did anything to cheat and Nattie made the comeback and won pretty quickly with, you guessed it, a Sharpshooter after another 5:00 special. * Nattie looked very happy to be out there and took photos with everyone at ringside, and then they did a babyface respect deal afterwards, which was fine. ½*
And then, it was time for WHITE RABBIT. Lights go out, song plays, everyone lights up their cell phones. Speaking of which, Sasktel Centre were NARCS tonight, sending security down to beak at anyone who even looked like they shooting video on their phones. I mean, it’s a house show in Saskatoon, why would you even WANT to? But regardless the people in the row above me were asked to leave and the phone police made several trips to our section. Anyway, I didn’t realize that the version of White Rabbit is the isolated vocal track by Grace Slick, which is kind of cool and interesting, but then I felt incredibly old when my kid asked me what the deal with the song was and I told her about how there’s this mystery about a White Rabbit with QR codes and hints and stuff, and she was like “OK but what does that have to do with the song they’re playing?” Ouch. Right in the rocking chair.
Match 3: Madcap Moss v. Sami Zayn
This was a whole wacky deal, because I’m assuming Madcap Moss is supposed to be a babyface right now, but he got booed out of the PROVINCE when Sami Zayn made his entrance. Sami was just crazy over here, but to their eternal credit, they immediately, like within seconds, read the room and Moss played complete heel and did his flexing and posing routines to roll with the boos. Zayn had Solo Sikoa with him, who actually has a really good star presence about him and will probably do really well for himself on the main roster. They had a decent 5:00 match and Moss blocked the Helluva Kick and hit a suplex for two, at which point Solo ran in for the DQ. BUT WAIT! Before the Bloodline could do a beatdown on Moss, Ricochet made the save and challenged them to a tag match, playa. Kudos for the renewed timely reference on his part.
Match 3.5: Madcap Moss & Rick O’Shea v. Sami Zayn & Solo Sikoa
This ended up being the show-stealing surprise of the night, as the crowd shifted the other way immediately because Ricochet is awesome live. In fact my wife had never seen him before and didn’t know who he was, and within 10 seconds he had done 15 crazy gravity-defying things and she was sold. They had a HELL of a house show match, with Ricochet playing face in peril most of the way, until Sikoa hit two hip attacks on Moss in the corner and then missed a third one. He just got greedy with that one. Ricochet did some cool springboards and Sami got a few hot near falls with the Blue Thunder Bomb and a powerbomb reversal to bring Ricochet down from the top, which all led to Sami taking care of Ricochet while Sikoa finished Moss with the Rock Bottom for the win. Tremendous action. ***1/2 Afterwards, Sami went back to the other side again, doing a heartfelt thanks to Saskatchewan for the weekend shows, since it was his first time in the province despite wrestling for 20 years, and talked about how great it was to be “acknowledged” before apologizing for stealing the Tribal Chief’s catchphrase. My wife was like “Um, he probably shouldn’t talk about Tribal Chiefs two days after Orange Shirt Day” but I tried to explain the whole Roman Reigns deal to her and how it’s about Samoans and not the other kind of Tribal Chiefs. Anyway, Sami went out as a complete babyface, despite promising that he wasn’t hanging it up or anything. But man it really sounded like a speech from someone about to hang it up. This was all great and kudos to Sikoa and Moss for hanging in there with both guys. Also notable because my daughter thought it was “Salami Zayn”.
INTERMISSION! At this point we still didn’t even know what the main event was, aside from Liv Morgan defending her title in some form. I cruised around the concourse and took the kid for snacks while scoping out how many people were wearing AEW shirts (surprisingly not many) and how many were wearing Macho Man shirts (counting mine, more than 10).
Match 4: Maximum Male Models v. Hit Row
Mansoor and Mace seem like they’re having the time of their life with this goofy act and they got MONSTER heel heat from the crowd for their “You’re all ugly and we’re going to do a five minute pose” bit. Also kudos to Mansoor for the fanny pack as an evil accessory. Hit Row are, shall we say, lacking a certain something without Swerve, by which I mean in ring talent and charisma. Top Dolla has some fairly impressive power stuff but the other guy is painfully generic. This was by far the worst match of the night, although it had tremendous heat thanks to the models getting cheap heat with the posing. Sadly this drew the expected reaction from certain portions of the crowd even in 2022. B-Fab foiled the use of the loaded fanny pack and Hit Row did their double-team dropkick/slam thing on Mansoor for the win. DUD
Match 5, Smackdown Women’s title: Liv Morgan v. Sonya Deville
Liv got a really good reaction from the crowd and she seems over as champion, but they constantly book her as a useless underdog and I don’t really understand why. As usual, Liv took a shitkicking from Sonya for the entire match (who frequently stopped to insult the city and did a weird thing comparing Liv to Bret Hart for some reason) but then made a comeback, got cut off again for a while, and then won with the Oblivion out of nowhere for the fluke victory. *
I actually assumed this was the main event and it was time to wrap it up because we were two hours in by that point, but NO.
Match 6: Imperium v. Sheamus & Drew McIntyre
Indeed THIS was the main event, which was bittersweet because I finally got to see Gunther live, but he was working as the comedy manager for Imperium. Doesn’t matter, Imperium still rules and this was GREAT. Imperium came out and did their spiel and I thought the match was going to be the Brawling Bruisers or whatever they’re called, but instead it was a tag match with a surprise appearance from Drew after Sheamus did his entrance and tried to face all three heels alone. Drew’s music has some BASS in it from the drums, and both guys were crazy over as babyfaces. It wasn’t like the stiff hard-hitting power match you’d expect for a PPV or anything, but it was done at a solid pace and they had some good suplexes on each other and Drew is born to be a hot tag guy. I still can’t believe how they wasted this guy for years, he looks like a legitimate World champion and top star out there. Imperium got some good near-falls and went for the Imperium Bomb on Sheamus, but he fought them off and we got the obvious thing the match was building towards: Drew and Sheamus doing stereo forearm shots on the apron on Imperium, and then teaming up on Gunther as well. And then they hit stereo kicks (Brogue and Claymore) and Drew pinned Kaiser to win in 20:00 or so. A great house show match to send the crowd home, and Drew sounded gave a cool speech afterwards thanking everyone for all the support and sounded really happy to be there and happy to be the babyface hero star. ****
So yeah, this way overdelivered for me, despite the thin roster in between Smackdown and RAW tapings, and most everyone seemed pretty happy to be working for a hot crowd tonight. Thumbs up for this one!